In 2010, there were 38,329 drug overdose deaths nationwide, and prescription drugs were the cause of nearly 60 percent of them. As in recent years, opioid drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin were the biggest problem, contributing to three-fourths of medication-overdose deaths, report Lindsey Tanner and Mike Stoppe of The Associated Press.
Anti-anxiety drugs including Valium were involved in almost 30 percent of medication-related deaths. Most were unintentional overdoses; 17 percent were rules suicides. The data were reported Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In Kentucky, drug abuse is epidemic and more than 1,000 Kentuckians a year die from prescription-drug overdoses, more than the number who die in car accidents, according to a 2012 Kentucky Justice & Public Safety Cabinet report. About 85 percent of Kentucky’s drug-related deaths were accidental and approximately 2 percent were suicides, according to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
The highest rates of overdose deaths during the study period were concentrated in Eastern Kentucky and among men, reports Bill Estep of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
That was the aim of House Bill 1, passed in last year’s legislative session. The Kentucky All-Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) system has undergone several changes since the bill’s passage to help crack down on so-called pill mills.
Last month, a federal panel of drug safety specialists recommended that Vicodin and dozens of other medicines be placed in a more restrictive drug category, which would make them harder to prescribe. Refills wouldn’t be allowed without a new prescription, and faxed or called-in prescriptions wouldn’t be accepted; only a handwritten prescription from a doctor would be allowed.